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Open the chocolate door

A website launched this week aims to make art and architecture available to all, reports Douglas Blane

Chocolate is not the most obvious material for a door. But the obvious rarely makes good art, and an exhibition at The Lighthouse in Glasgow last month contained work by pupils from Larkhall and Loudon Academies of an appealing and original nature.

"An Investigation of Buildings and Doors" owed its origins to the Executive's objective, stated in last year's policy for architecture in Scotland, of raising awareness of building design.

The Lighthouse, Scotland's centre for architecture and design, was identified as a key agency in achieving this, and has been developing a national programme of activities. One is a website of curriculum-wide teaching resources, delivered through the National Grid for Learning and launched this week.

Art teachers Laura Bernstein, of Larkhall Academy, and Rachel Dallas, of Loudon Academy, were commissioned by The Lighthouse to tailor existing lesson plans and case studies for the website. The results, which could be seen at The Lighthouse, are now available on the website.

For Ms Bernstein, the inclusive nature of the project is its most important aspect for other teachers who will study the details on the website and want to adapt them for their own classes.

"You have to be very aware of differentiation," she says. "If kids are having trouble with drawing they can draw with wires. If they're having problems with colour work they can use collage. It isn't about an end-product or being good at art. It's all about enjoying and learning from the process."

For Ms Dallas the focus differs: "I feel the kids have to see something final. It's the teacher's responsibility to make sure they produce work they can show and be proud of."

But the aim is the same: "Time available for art in schools can be very short, so the slower kids don't get a chance to finish. But there is a whole range of techniques you can teach - such as continuous line drawing - that will leave kids who think they're poor at art amazed by what they can produce in just 15 minutes."

Visitors to the Lighthouse exhibition were met by a white wall displaying a montage of miniature doors made from every material imaginable: feathers, balloons, cloth, pins, paperclips, chains, screws, bobbins - and chocolate.

Fraser Rowan, a first-year pupil at Larkhall Academy, said: "My imaginary door is made out of chocolate. It is a door of dreams. The texture of the door is very smooth. It is like a piece of silk. Behind my door is a chocolate factory. I feel very hungry when I think about my door, because I really like chocolate."

Fraser was one of a handful of pupils who attended the opening ceremony at The Lighthouse. But the exhibition contained work by more than 500 Secondary 1 and 2 pupils from the two schools.

At the beginning of this term the youngsters studied buildings in their own neighbourhoods. Then they looked at photographs of architecture from further afield - Glasgow, Paris, Barcelona. In each case their initial task was simply to reproduce as accurately as possible what they saw. They were then asked to focus on one part of a building, and use the design as a stimulus for their own creativity.

"We started with the building then we changed parts of it," said Larkhall second-year pupil Laura Campbell. "I tried to make things look nice. Where there were plain windows, for example, I put details into them - shapes, colours, textures, whatever appealed.

"Through the whole project the teacher gave us ideas but never told us exactly what to do. This project gave us choice, and that made you enjoy it more."

Building Connections: The Curriculum and the Built Environment, a guidance paper on architecture, is available free from Learning and Teaching Scotland, tel 08700 100297Teaching materials and case studies are on the website at Lighthouse is at 11 Mitchell Lane, Glasgow G1 3NUSchools can contact education manager Julia Fenby, tel 0141 225 8406 e-mail

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